I was listening to Ravi Zacharias this week, and a story he told just really slapped me across the ears. He was talking about the time he lived near Cambridge University and when he went jogging in the morning, the numerous signs posted around the university, declaring the need to ban meat, fur, animal testing, ect. This was the seventies, nice to know some things haven't changed right? The crux of this story was his realization that all this focus on animal rights and hyper-environmentalism was the modern equivalent of what Paul was lamenting in Romans 1, with the line "Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools, and changed the glory of the uncorruptible God into an image made like to corruptible man and to birds, and fourfooted beasts, and creeping things." (Rom. 1:22-23) I've heard the reference before, it just really jumped out again. We're sitting in the midst of a huge push for green energy, and a constant view of how everything we do might affect the birds and the bunnies. For example, a recent attempt to start a pipeline to bring oil down from Alaska to the lower forty eight states was shot down by Congress because of the possible environmental effects. Those possible effects seem to outweigh the jobs and other positive human effects the pipeline would effect. Kind of like the way the BP mess in the Gulf of Mexico might not have been as bad if the regulations hadn't required the company to be drilling so far out in the ocean.
Some people have probably already tuned out, declaring that I'm just going to say that we humans get to sit on top of the world and tear everything up and down for our own selfish wants and needs. That's your call, but it's not my point. My point is that while modern man may not bow down at idols shaped like cows or birds or snakes, many of us have moved those animals or the earth itself up to a holy position, one that is to be revered above anything else, a concept that God has been warning us about throughout the Bible. When we hold up anything before the instructions God gives us, we are practicing idolatry. Even if it seems like what we're doing is in line with God's commands, if the act or the cause becomes more important than God, it turns into an idol, same as that golden calf or those various ancient statues. When we put our time and energy into activities that distract us from God's plan for us, even if those activities seem to be good, Christian stuff, we are still practicing idolatry. (That one's for me as much as anyone else)
Obviously, God has given mankind a call to take care of this earth, which cancels out ideas like strip mining the whole planet for the sole purpose of making gold trinkets or razing the rain forests to make toothpicks that some people like to try and tack to Christians. Going back to the Mosaic Law we find instruction to leave all the land to rejuvenate for an entire year out of each seven, one of the earliest "green" movements. There's nothing wrong with wanting to take care of the planet, or loving your animal friends, or even eating vegan. The trouble comes when those actions get placed higher on our priority totem pole than God.